by Lorie Holder-Webb

As I left Mayyim Hayyim, my Mikveh Guide wished that next time we meet be for joy. I understand that, and thanked her for that wish, but I have to say that for me, this meeting was for joy. I know it must seem that immersing in the midst of a chronic illness would be saturated with grief, but this – strangely enough – is not how it is to me. I, too, would have expected that. In fact, this morning as I made my way into town, I was still finding the rag-tag shreds of grief and disharmony that have marked much of the last year. I would have thought that any tears I shed during the immersion would have been for sorrow, or if not, then mixed with sorrow.

Yet I found instead that the preparations and the immersion, and most of all the ritual words and interaction served not to remind me of the losses I have had and will have in the future, but of how these losses make me more fully human, how they connect me to the rest of my fellow travelers, and how tremendously valuable that knowledge of the holiness of my innermost self is. After all, home is never so appealing as when one has been on an extended journey through unpleasant conditions.

In the ritual collected and provided by Mayyim Hayyim for this occasion, I heard my own experience and needs, and longings echoed to me through the words of others, and celebrated that connection with joy. And in my Guide’s participation, where those words of others were spoken with a human voice and infused with the spirit of the moment – thanks to her willingness to walk this way with me for that time – I felt that connection with joy. To be restored to my place as a member of the flow of humanity, to feel those barriers and the strangeness that come with experiencing a major illness – this is a source of unutterable joy.

This illness has changed me, and will continue to do so. But in the process of connecting with you, with the ritual, with the traditions – and always, with the water and the holiness that infuses this place – I recognize my place within the tents and within the community. And that recognition brings me a sense of wholeness that can only be recognized with a burst of joy.

So. I, too, hope that the next time we meet it is in joy – again.

Celebrating eight days of light, we present eight days of stories of healing at the mikveh. Consider a year-end donation to Mayyim Hayyim to support healing, solace, and comfort at the mikveh.

Lorie Holder-Webb travels to Mayyim Hayyim to immerse from her home in Madison.